Mission Statement

B4 Project aims is to conserve, protect and increase the population of Apis mellifera mellifera, the European Dark Honey Bee (EDHB), by the fusion of science and beekeeping.


The B4 Project is a Community Interest Company representing a group of beekeepers whose aim is to protect the UK’s native honey bee, Apis mellifera mellifera.
The purpose of the B4 Project is to conserve, protect and increase the population of Apis mellifera mellifera, the European Dark Honey Bee (EDHB), by the fusion of science and beekeeping.

Program Details

The B4 Project is a Community Interest Company
B4 was established 5th March 2013, its purpose is to protect the UK’s native honey bee, Apis mellifera mellifera (or Amm). The B4 Project is a private company, limited by guarantee and without share capital. Our two patrons are Sir Timothy Bartel Smit KBE (The Eden Project) and Michael Eavis CBE (Glastonbury Festival). The Duchy are supportive of the aims of the B4Project.
The B4 Project is an entirely voluntary organisation. It relies on goodwill, grant funding and aims to facilitate collaboration between like-minded groups but without long term encumbrance. B4 aims to transfer ownership of the future of the native honeybee to beekeepers within the beekeeping community and other, supportive, public educational institutions.
The six directors and their extended network represent those beekeepers both nationally and regionally who have an interest in conserving the British Isles native honeybee.
Program so far
In 2013 B4 independently commissioned the first genetic analysis of the Cornish dark honeybees.
In 2014 the Heritage Lottery Fund backed B4 and B4 established native dark honey bee apiaries at Eden, Heligan and Paignton Zoo. Further genetic tests and a scientific report were procured.
B4 procured a tenancy with the Duchy and met Prince Charles which resulted in Duchy support.
In 2016 with the University of Plymouth B4 won a Natural Environment Research Council competition and was awarded a NERC Industrial CASE PhD Studentship. B4 is the CASE partner.
In 2017 B4 was able to open the first English dark honey bee reserve in the 800-acre Mount Edgcumbe Country House and Park. This reserve is strategically important being jointly owned by Plymouth City Council and the conservation minded Cornwall County Council.
In the Summer of 2017, B4 volunteers supported a Plymouth Universities MSc’s student, studying aspects of the behaviour of our Cornish Black Bees.
Dr. Norman Carreck (University of Sussex) has mentored us and presented the case for conserving our Cornish Bees in the EU parliament. On the 29th May 2017 the EU Agricultural committee heard a presentation entitled, “The Situation of the EU Apicultural Sector, Apiculture from the scientific side: “pilot-projects” and initiatives to preserve the European biodiversity.” B4 was one of the projects considered.
In addition to academic personnel, MPs, MEPs and landowners have been approached and support secured: George Eustice (MP) Sheryll Murray (MP), Julie Girling (MEP), Lord Robin Teverson, Tim Smit (a patron of B4), Michael Eavis (a patron of B4), George Trubody Rame County Councillor, the Duchy of Cornwall and the MoD.
Between 2017 -2019 B4 was able to fund multiple apiary projects with the help of Tesco Groundworks Community Fund:
· Duchy College Rosewarne, Teaching Apiary.
· Black Bee Reserve at Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, jointly owned by Plymouth City Council and Cornwall County Council.
· Project B5, Somerset British Black Bee Conservation Group.
· The Helford River Black Honey Bee Conservation Group.
· University of Exeter Beekeeping Society.
· Plymouth University Beekeeping at Plymouth Marine Lab with Pollenize https://www.pollenize.org.uk/.
· Blackdown Hills Black Bee Conservation Project.
· Devon Bee Improvement Group.
· Shebbear Black Bee Conservation Project.
· Wheal Primrose Cornish Black Bee Conservation Project St Agnes.
· Marley Farm Apiary South Brent.
An ongoing Genetic survey of the Cornish Black Bee Population in Cornwall by the University of Plymouth was funded for B4 by, The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation.
February 2018 B4 hosted the first Conference for Sustainable Beekeeping, “A Future without Imports” at The Eden Project.
April 2018 B4 was granted a second Heritage Lottery Project grant which is an ongoing collaboration with Eden/Heligan/Plymouth University/Godolphin National Trust.
May 2018 BIBBA funded a Black Bee Breeding Program for B4 and isolated apiary was established at Sherberton Farm on Dartmoor.
May 2018 B4 jointly published an academic paper with University of Plymouth entitled, “Introgression in native populations of Apis mellifera mellifera L: implications for conservation.” Journal of Insect Conservation. Published https://rdcu.be/OYcm
May 2018 B4 was invited by Patagonia to their second European Tools for Grassroots Activists conference, hosted in Una National Park in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
September 2018 B4 encouraged Sir Tim Smit to declare The Lost Gardens of Heligan a native honey bee reserve.
Sept 2018 B4 was represented by Sir Tim Smit and interviewed by Martha Kearney on the Today Programme BBC Radio 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhU84502di8
Martha Kearney's comments concerning the undesirable importation of continental honeybee stock represent a paradigm shift in institutional opinion and was not an accident.
February 2019 Eden Project/B4 2nd Conference for Sustainable Beekeeping. Academics representing British Isles populations of our native honeybee form collaborative research group. Namely, Edinburgh University, Plymouth University, Bangor University, the National University of Ireland Galway and Sussex University.
Feb – Mar 19 Tim Smit introduces the conference. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-P9dkW0u_Cw
February-March 2018 Patagonia Funds Plan Bee Exhibition with $6000 and the exhibition formed a perfect backdrop for conference. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jQoNIhdKq4
June 2019 An effective method to identify native colonies is urgently required to enable preservation and in June 2019 B4 started work with Northern Genetics Service, making available a cost-effective genotyping platform that can be used to identify colonies of native honeybees. B4 is in partnership with academics from the Roslin Institute in setting up a genetic screening program for native honey bees in Scotland and B4 is working closely with Scottish Native Honey Bee Society (SNHBS) on this service. B4 proposed a 23,000-acre native honey bee reserve at the Allandale Wilderness Reserve. This reserve will take the role out of native honey bee reserves to a landscape scale.
B4 formed a partnership with Pollenize CIC- https://www.pollenize.org.uk/ a Plymouth based social enterprise that brings together the power of community and technology to reverse pollinator decline. B4 enabled Pollinize to procure £12500 for hive monitors in apiaries around Plymouth and at the Mount Edgcumbe Dark Honey Bee Reserve.
September 2019
B4 opens the first UK, National Trust, Native Bee Haven at National Trust Godolphin https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/cornish-bee-gone-near-extinction-3435233?fbclid=IwAR3OsH4SPs_xLfMjndsBO4cgu-9TTys5yALXKUgGXkeFu241iaUOThXU9K0
B4/HLF finances a spectacular new observation hive at the Eden Project giving our native honey bee a chance and Eden becomes a native honey bee reserve. Our patron Sir Tim Smit talking about the European dark honey bee is available at https://youtu.be/suduwO3fM9w .
The environmental problem
The public’s disproportionate interest in honeybee gives conservation activists an opportunity to garner a compelling body of evidence to justify immediate action.
The B4’s project concentrates on the increasing global trade in bees, the resultant hybridisation of native populations and the deleterious disruption of co-evolved parasite and pathogens populations.
B4 had deliberately chosen to address these difficult concepts using honeybee to illustrate them but B4’s conclusions could equally be applied to fish and trees.
Amm was the original bee of the British Isles but sadly, due to the introgression of genes from introduced foreign subspecies, its genetic presence has been diluted. Our main urgent aim is to bring the remnant Cornish population of Amm back from the brink of extinction.
We need to more clearly identify residual populations of these bees and provide them with reserves.
The UK has become reliant on the cheap and convenient world trade in bees, importing 10400 queens in 2015, 13800 queens in 2016 and 16471 queens in 2018. More than 7% UK colonies are being superseded each year. Recent scientific work has shown that local bees do better than imported bees.
I have quoted from the international scientific paper, “Honey bee genotypes and the environment.”
“There is now growing evidence of the adverse effects of the global trade in honey bees, which has led to the spread of novel pests and diseases such as the varroa mite and Nosema ceranae (Paxton, 2010; Mutinelli 2011, Fürst et al., 2014). We hope that the evidence provided within the papers of this Special Issue will inspire beekeepers and scientists to explore and appreciate the value of locally bred bees, by developing and supporting breeding programmes. Damage from importations may arise from accompanying pests and pathogens, but it is also inevitable that introduced bees represent a burden to the genetic integrity of local populations. The spread of imported genes into the local population is likely, and the resulting increase in genetic diversity is not universally beneficial. Since maladapted genes will be selected against, this process may well in the short term contribute to colony losses, and is in the long term, unsustainable.”
Goals that are addressing this problem
We plan to establish requisite reserves and voluntary havens where we can offer a modicum of protection for these remnant populations.
Specifically, we aim to establish a voluntary bee haven, in 10,000 acres of the Rame Peninsula to include and extend the 800-acre Mount Edgcumbe Dark Honey Bee Reserve.
We aim to establish a landscape scale Native Honeybee Reserve in the 23,000 acres of the Alladale Wilderness Reserve https://alladale.com/.
We aim to establish a Voluntary Bee Haven in a further 500,000 acres of the Highlands of Scotland connecting the Alladale Wilderness Reserve to the Cairngorm National Park.
We aim to reduce the importation of honeybees by disseminating good science and thereby influencing National and International political opinion.
In the future an extension of our conservation efforts will aim to collect cryopreserved bee sperm in sperm banks. The archive will safeguard present day genetic variation.
Plans to achieve goals
Creation of reserves requires the commitment of landowners to own their potential biodiversity, change their current behaviour and incrementally commit to protecting their own natural capital.
B4 is in partnership with academics in setting up a cost effective genetic screening program for native honey bees. This will enable stake holders to take control of their own natural capital.
Preliminary discussions with obliging landowners on the Rame Peninsula suggest that it will be
possible to agree to setting up a voluntary Black Bee haven in 10000 acres of the Rame Peninsula
which, over time and with the agreement of all parties, could be converted into a requisite Reserve.
To achieve this we have convened a meeting of stake holders in 2020.
The Eden Project and Godolphin National Trust have agreed to become iconic native honeybee reserves in September 2019.
Alladale Wilderness Reserve has agreed in principle to become the first landscape size native honeybee reserve.
We aim to reduce the importation of honeybees by disseminating good science and thereby influencing National and International political opinion. All the beekeeping associations in the British Isles discourage the importation of honey bees for convenience and all the engaged scientific opinion thinks that importing honey bees on the present scale is unsustainable. Present free trade agreements are about to change. The precautionary principle, new traceability regulations and the polluter pays principle need to be applied to future international trade in bees. New genetic tests for pathogens need rigorous application.
B4 has enable the formation of a British Isles Research Group looking at Apis mellifera mellifera and is itself partnered in a PhD project with Plymouth University. https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/news/pr-opinion/opinion-how-do-we-protect-our-native-bee-species .
The end point of the PhD will also investigate the feasibility of cryopreserved sperm as an archive of genetic material for safeguarding present day genetic variation, and therefore local adaptation, for the future. Washington State University is our partner in this aspiration.
B4 has assurance that representative from all the Universities in the Apis mellifera mellifera British Isles Research Group that they will attend the 2020 SICAMM Conference. This international conference will be held at the Athlone Springs Hotel, Athlone, Irish Republic from 4th-6th September 2020, hosted by the Native Irish Honeybee Society. http://www.sicamm.org/ This conference will bring together all the beekeepers and research institutes in the British Isles and Western Europe who are interested in conserving Apis mellifera mellifera.
A clear agenda
The purpose of the B4 Project is to conserve, protect and increase the population of Apis mellifera mellifera or Amm in the UK, by the fusion of science and beekeeping.
This will be achieved by: -
Setting up reserves with like-minded beekeepers and land owners.
Working closely with scientists to identify genetic purity of samples taken geographically.
Informing the public about the Amm.
Influencing decision makers.
These aims will be achieved by bidding for grant funding.
Where new money would go
The money would go to setting up a native honey bee reserve as part of a the much bigger Alladale Rewilding project. Alladale Wilderness Reserve has 23,000-acres in the Scottish Highlands. This part of Scotland truly wild and the estate has replanted lush forest and is reintroducing original Highland plant & animal species.
We have learnt from successes in setting up native honey bee reserves in Cornwall and we want to take this knowledge to a more extreme part of the British Isles where populations of native bee are known to still exist and there is good will from local beekeepers who appreciate the locally adapted native honey bee.
The money will contribute to a beekeeping centre in the style of a Slovenian style bee house on the site of a proposed aquaponics and green house development. The centre will enable beekeeping duties to be carried out during inclement weather and more importantly teaching to be carried out all through the season independent of the weather.
B4 wants build on our achievement at the Eden Project where in partnership with CAUKIN studios we constructed an observation hive/sculpture entitled “Hive Mind.” https://www.caukinstudio.com/hive-mind-eden-project. CAUKIN’s working practice seeks to tackle social, environmental and economic problems through beautiful, well-crafted design with community and volunteer involvement. https://www.caukinstudio.com/about-us. The future of our environmental may depend on involving our young decision makers.
Incorporated in the design will be sensors from arnia https://www.arnia.co.uk/using-the-hardware/ with a big data partnership from the impact lab www.impactlab.org.uk/ . The use of sensors coupled with genetic analysis will revolutionise research. The sensors can detect the sound made by hawking Asian Hornets and these apiary will also become a sentinel apiary for the imminent arrival of this invasive pest.
Our hive system is based on American beekeeper, Mike Palmer’s ground-breaking work which he illustrates in “The Sustainable Apiary YouTube”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nznzpiWEI8A
Finally the project has the support of local beekeepers, The Scottish Native Honey Bee Society http://www.snhbs.scot/ and academics.
Primary Issue
Newton Farm, Metherell
Callington,, Cornwall PL178DQ
United Kingdom
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